Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pleasure (Not Necessarily in that Order)

We are up to the eighth of our Ten Universal Principles. This one goes to the issue of how we resolve a conflict of rights, say, my right to property and your freedom of assembly.

Spitzer calls it The Principle of the Fundamentality of Rights: The more fundamental right is the one which is necessary for the possibility of the other; where there is a conflict, we should resolve in favor of the more fundamental.

This makes sense to most Americans, but not to the Occupy Wall Street crowd, the one percent who insist that their right of assembly trumps the right to private property.

What this ultimately means is that the OWSers believe they have a constitutionally protected right to crime. Which they do. Like all Americans, they can apply for a job with the government.

You might say that there are necessary rights and sufficient rights. As in logic, a sufficient right is one "with which," whereas a necessary right is one "without which." Thus, the most Necessary Right of all would be the right without which no other rights are possible. Is there such a right? I don't know yet. Let's find out!

As we know, the Declaration of Independence mentions three such rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And of course, for the founders, "happiness" has a specific meaning. It has nothing to do with its contemporary usage, but with the idea of actualizing our potential and perfecting our human nature. You might say that it doesn't connote transient states but permanent traits.

But of those three, is there one that is more necessary?

Well, let's see. It looks to me as if Life must trump the second two, since without it, we cannot be free, much less perfect ourselves. Compared to Life, liberty and the p. of h. are reduced to sufficient rights, i.e., rights with which Life may aim the teloscope at its own celestial coonsteliation and achieve its end.

Of course, when the Declaration speaks of Life, it is not referring to plant life, or to that stuff growing in my bathtub. Rather, it obviously means human life, since back then, people weren't yet stupid enough to confuse animals and humans. Animals do not have rights. Rather, human beings have obligations toward them.

Thus, in order to understand the "right to Life," we must first define what we mean by human life -- or a human for short. After all, we're talking about living humans, not dead ones. But even there, a subtle caveat is in order, since we are talking about the totality of human lives, past, present, and future.

Which means that we have an obligation to future generations, something even liberals believe, so long as the future generation isn't unlucky enough to be in the womb. That generation has no rights. Unless the fetus in question is homosexual. Then you have no right to kill it.

We also have an obligation to the past. It seems that this is something the temperamental conservative is "born knowing," whereas the temperamental liberal almost defines himself in terms of not knowing it -- or at least not respecting it.

This is one of the virtues of studying history -- no, not the kind of ahistorical history promulgated by the tenured, but real history. For example, I recently read biographies of Washington, Hamilton, and Lincoln, and was reminded all over again how much I owe these great men. It's a debt I can never repay, but one I must always be mindful of.

I've mentioned this before, but I remember walking out of the theatre after watching Saving Private Ryan, and thinking to myself, "how can I ever repay these people," especially the ones who are buried somewhere on the coast of France? To think in these terms is a quintessentially human thing to do. To forget our obligation to the past is to render ourselves less than human.

So man qua man is entitled to the pursuit of the natural perfection of his nature. That's my opinion, anyway.

Now, when we say "right to life," we mean that we have a right to ourselves. Every human being is being-for-himself and master of his domain. But the essence of humanness -- for it is a condition without which humanness is impossible -- is our intersubjectivity, or our trinitarian nature.

As such, when we talk about the second right, liberty, there is an ineluctable complementarity to it, which essentially involves responsibilities, duties, and obligations to go along with our freedom. To talk about the latter in the absence of the former is to speak of a monster, not a human being.

Thus, we may only speak of the "yoke of liberty," for man is condemned to freedom. And we use the word "condemned" advisedly, for liberty means different things to different people and cultures. For example, in Islam, freedom doesn't mean what people think it means:

"[M]ost Americans still do not know that hurriya, Arabic for 'freedom,' connotes 'perfect slavery' or absolute submission to Allah, very nearly the opposite of the Western concept." Ironically, the primary complaint of, say, the Muslim Brotherhood, is not over the denial of (Western style) freedom, but the repression of Islam (Andrew McCarthy, National Review, 1.23.12).

McCarthy estimates that maybe 20% actually long for the type of freedom we enjoy in the west. Here again, this is one of the points where leftism and Islamism converge, i.e., the devaluing of freedom and its progeny, the individual. If there's one thing they can't stand, it's the intolerance of intolerance.

The bottom line is that on any objective or logical basis, "the right to life is more fundamental than the right to liberty and the right to property, and the right to liberty is more fundamental than the right to property."

Actually, it is difficult to disentangle those last two, but just ask yourself, would you rather go to jail (lose your liberty) or pay a fine (give up some property)? And would you rather go to prison or the gas chamber?

Note also that for the left, the pursuit of transient happiness trumps the right to life, with the result that their most necessary right is convenience or expediency. Which is why theirs is a philosophy of barbarism.

17 Comments:

Blogger mushroom said...

"Give me liberty or give me death."

"Live free or die."

Not being able to freely possess property or, to put it another way, not being able to possess the "means of production", and, equally, not being able to use my own property to provide for myself, makes me a slave.

Liberty, life, property -- it's all one.

2/01/2012 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Distinct but without division, like that other Thing....

2/01/2012 09:43:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

"[M]ost Americans still do not know that hurriya, Arabic for 'freedom,' connotes 'perfect slavery' or absolute submission to Allah, very nearly the opposite of the Western concept."

I don't think I knew that. Interesting. It's liked a warped version of John 8:32, where instead of aligning oneself with truth, one must align oneself with a capricious, murderous, lying god.

Note also that for the left, the pursuit of transient happiness trumps the right to life, with the result that their most necessary right is convenience or expediency.

I wonder if that explains the logic behind the OWSers throwing condoms (unused, one hopes) at Catholic Schoolgirls. Perhaps some of the condom throwers were hoping a Catholic schoolgirl or two would suddenly decide to pursue some transient happiness...

Nah, who am I kidding? That would require actual consideration of actions and possible consequences, and if they could do that (even though they'd be wrong in this instance), they wouldn't be OWSers.

2/01/2012 09:44:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

"Actually, it is difficult to disentangle those last two, but just ask yourself, would you rather go to jail (lose your liberty) or pay a fine (give up some property)?"

I find it easier if I look at it this way. As a hierarchy of capabilities. One dependent on the other above it.

First you must be alive :-) Once that's "secured", you can work on your right to liberty (to be alive, but not a slave -- at least there's a chance). Once your freedom is secured, you can work on your right to property. You may not have any property yet, but your liberty allows you to work on that problem. And the liberty to secure property is not really possible if you are a slave. Even if your master says you can own things.

2/01/2012 09:46:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, you must have your own domain before you can master it.

2/01/2012 09:48:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

I bought The Ten Principles on Kindle first and I'm about 1/3 into it. I just ordered the paperback today because this is an essential book to own; to have handy on the bookshelf. Especially if you have kids, I think. One of the Top 5 Books to Own and save in case of fire, I think. Alongside the Bible and 1984. Can't think of the other 3.

I wish Amazon gave a price break or threw in the Kindle version when you buy the paper version. I'd buy both versions way more often.

2/01/2012 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

It's rare to find a book so concise, with nothing inessential added. The opposite of most books, which have One Idea buried in 300 or 400 or 500 pages.

2/01/2012 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Oops. I mean, can't think of the other 2.
Perhaps one of them a book on mathematics.

2/01/2012 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Yes, concise.

Steven Covey's book (still love him, still owe him) could be 1/3 the length.

2/01/2012 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

How could I not love him. He introduced me to Frankl and McCullough.

2/01/2012 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger Van said...

Love the post. Just bought the book... sorry, no Kindle points here, only Nook.

"The bottom line is that on any objective or logical basis, "the right to life is more fundamental than the right to liberty and the right to property, and the right to liberty is more fundamental than the right to property."

Very true, and I think not as sticky of a wicket to disentangle as it seems at first, if you note that it says "Liberty" not "Freedom", and "Property" not "Possession".

Liberty only comes into being, properly speaking, through (proper) Law, and Law is the means by which possessions are able to be recognized as Property.

2/01/2012 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Van said...

Gagdad said "It's rare to find a book so concise, with nothing inessential added."

I haven't read it yet, so I can't say, but I'd bet one that's in the same ballpark would be Bastiat's The Law?

My paper copy is 55 pages.

Bonus, I just noticed that at the link above, they've now got a Kindle version, as well as epub, pdf, html and even audio now, all free.

2/01/2012 03:03:00 PM  
Blogger Verdiales said...

Beautiful, I'm in for a couple copies!

2/01/2012 05:09:00 PM  
Blogger Kv0nT said...

@Rick
The other two are:
Science Politics and Gnosticism
The Abolition of Man

2/01/2012 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

KvOnT,
We're gonna need a bigger boat.

Man's Search for Meaning
Wildwood Wisdom
Basho
Lazarus, come Forth!
OCUG

2/01/2012 06:43:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

OT, via Ace, Fisking the Episcopal Church.

2/01/2012 08:49:00 PM  
Blogger Sal said...

Re: Episcopalians
There is a phrase in the old Collect for Peace: O God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom"...

That leapt instantly to mind the first time I heard that about Islam and submission.

2/02/2012 04:45:00 AM  

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